The Commotions – Volume II
Soul, funk, and R&B as practiced by the Motown and Stax masters is what falls in The Commotions’ wheelhouse and it never sounds imitative. Instead, the band’s thirteen originals mine the fertile ground of the aforementioned styles while imbuing the work with individual charisma and personality that makes use of the sound while still making a personal statement. The band’s extended lineup of eleven members plus a touring vocalist only scratches the surface of the participation level that goes into Volume II – the band has recruited a slate of guest stars who add immeasurably to the final result. Volume II has contributions from three different songwriting styles, but each of the creative forces behind this band find complementary ground and share enough unity of purpose and vision that they overcome their rather negligible differences. The Commotions are impressive on every front and challenge anyone who might suppose that this sort of traditional music is limited to regurgitating standards and barren of new creativity.
If “Good Enough” doesn’t grab your attention, check your pulse because you might be dead. Rebecca Noelle and the band power out of the starting gates with a blazing, energetic number that grabs musical life by the throat and has satisfying boldness. The Commotions, from the first number onward, do an amazing job of bringing the horns into their musical arrangements without ever throwing the balance of each song out of whack. Rather than relying on guitar, The Commotions seem to build their songs around the horn and rhythm section with any additional instruments adding further color. “Masquerade” makes great use of the brass strengths and experiments, some, with a doo wop influence that you don’t hear on the album’s other numbers. Listeners come into a particularly stellar stretch of the album’s track listing with the songs “Let Me Kiss You, Baby”, “Too Little Too Late”, “Say Yes to Me Tonight, and “Right Kind of Wicked”. The first two and last song in that list are the strongest, in no small part thanks to their memorable choruses, but the song “Say Yes to Me Tonight” isn’t any slouch and has one of Jeff Rogers’ best vocals on Volume II. His pipes give “Right Kind of Wicked” an equally memorable workout.
Rebecca Noelle captures listeners’ imaginations and hearts once again with the track “Believe In Yourself” and the positive message of the song’s lyrics is well in keeping with the album’s general mood and never risks heavy handedness. Volume II’s sole ballad, “Loving You”, is another great vocal performance from Jeff Rogers that builds around his understated phrasing talents and the immense amount of heart he’s capable of investing in these performances. The Commotions wisely choose to end the album with the one-two punch of “Take a Chance” and the playfully scolding “Come Clean”. The former is a really physical tune with an especially fine drumming performance from Jeff Asselin while the album closer features one of the more zesty singing performances that Noelle brings to the release. Volume II is going to find a lot of lovers within the R&B/soul fan base, but anyone who’s a fan of the blues and high quality songwriting in general will find much to admire here.